Sagem MDP-1600 £800
30th Apr 2005 | 23:00
Sagem tries to redefine value for money
Okay, here's the deal. Take a sheet of A4 paper, lop a couple of inches off the short side et voilà, the MDP-1600's footprint. Oh, and on the subject of numbers, here's another: £800 - the price in pounds.
For this very unprincely sum, you get a projector which has a DLP light engine, an output of 1,600 ANSI Lumens and a contrast ratio of 1,500:1. Unlike the earlier figures, however, the last two should not be taken at face value.
The optical chip at the heart of the MDP-1600 has a 4:3 aspect ratio and a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels (SVGA), which is adequate for standard DVD replay. It will even cope with higher resolution signals at a pinch, but it has to translate (scale) them to a lower figure before they display on screen, so there is no real benefit.
One issue with the 4:3 optical processor is that if you display widescreen images from DVD or a set-top box, there is a blank area below the picture which is supposed to be full black, but which in fact, is a deep, but perfectly visible, grey. The unused pixels cannot be switched off and are instead driven by a blank signal.
On the fixtures and fittings front, the Sagem has most of the basics, with the exception of a component video input, which is now available even on many budget DVD players.
S-video is the best way of connecting this projector and it works well enough, but component would have been better. If the player was able to output a progressive (ie non-interlaced) component signal, it would have been possible to bypass the internal deinterlacing, which would have been very welcome, as the Sagem's picture processing circuitry is relatively primitive.
On fast moving scenes of certain types - well defined diagonals for example - you clearly see 'staircasing' due to inadequate internal processing. At others times motion tends to look blurred and muddled.
The claimed contrast ratio of 1,500:1 is impressive for a budget projector. Most LCDs fall well short of this value, but in practice the image looks muddy and lacks detail in the near blacks, while the whites are not especially punchy.This is indicative of a compressed range of brightness values.
There is enough raw power in the Sagem to overcome low levels of residual room lighting, but there is little to spare. And the output brightness figure of 1,600 ANSI Lumens simply beggars belief. The projector is bright enough to throw a 2m-wide image in a well blacked out room, but that's the limit.
Colour reproduction is satisfactory, though some simply came out wrong (some blues replaced by greens, for example).
There are many points that could have been better, but ultimately this is a value for money story. Sagem has introduced a bare budget DLP projector at a previously unthinkable price. For all its imperfections, the MDP-1600 is an attractive entry-level option for home cinema freaks.